Early in 2010, the VA Palo Alto Health Care System identified a new rural health care screening need within the Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties, where 658 Veterans with vision issues related to diabetes needed annual screenings. Formerly, to get their care, they had to travel more than two hours to VA's Livermore Campus for retinal exams.
This is no longer necessary as a result of a new teleretinal diabetic eye screening being done at the VA Sonora Clinic. VA clinical guidelines require that these patients with related diabetes diagnoses receive yearly funduscopic exams to ensure that they are not suffering from one of the most devastating end-organ diseases related to diabetes known as diabetic retinopathy. The new Teleretinal Clinic has doubled the number of teleretinal diabetic eye screening clinic sites in our facility, ensuring prompt and thorough care for our Veterans.
The clinic has open slots, and Veterans who were not aware of the necessity of this screening exam are now being seen immediately. One Veteran was unaware he had diabetes altogether. Enrollment in this clinic has now informed him that he has a serious chronic illness that he should discuss with his physician. Veterans' travel times have been reduced in some cases by 85 percent for what is a yearly exam. VAPAHCS is in the process of implementing a comprehensive approach to establishing telehealth clinics throughout the health care system.
To contact the Sonora Clinic, call 209-588-2600.